The Big Story: Against terror

On Thursday morning, the world woke up to the most banal and terrifying headline: a truck drove through Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, killing at least 80, injuring more than 100. The police shot and killed the driver, a 31-year-old French Tunisian man who lived in Nice. Grenades and other ammunition were found in his truck. The presidents of both France and the United States confirmed that it was a terror attack. Supporters of the so-called Islamic State celebrated on Twitter.

Bastille Day, also known as the French National Day, commemorates the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, a key event in the revolution that would bring down the rule of the Bourbons and put in place a French republic founded on "liberté, égalité, fraternité". The attack on revellers watching fireworks on Bastille Day, therefore, will be seen as an attack on the very idea of the French republic, just as the Charlie Hebdo shooting was supposed to be an attack on French ideals of free speech and secularism. The Paris attacks of November 13, which left 130 dead, were directed at cafes, concerts and football matches, places which define the cultural life of France. All three episodes had their inspiration elsewhere, in the deadly ideologies of the IS. But among the attackers were French citizens, mostly immigrants or the children of immigrants, people whose way of life does not always figure in the republic's image of itself.

US President Barack Obama has already asserted that "the character of the French Republic will endure", and in days to come, no doubt, leaders across the world will speak of the need for resilience and upholding these values under fire. And indeed there is. But this resilience should not mean the hardening of one culture against another. It could be a reimagining of what liberté, égalité and fraternité mean in these times.

Political pickings

1. On Thursday, a Noida court directed the police to file a case against the family of Dadri lynching victim, Mohammad Akhlaq, on charges of cow slaughter.
2. On the same day that the United States called for Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir, India hit out at Pakistan at a United Nations conference.
3. The Congress names former Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit as its new chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh.

1. In the Indian Express, Suhas Palshikar explains why the Supreme Court verdict on Arunachal Prades is "strange": it upholds constitutional morality in these troubled times.
2. In the Hindu, Nivedita Menon argues that the clamour for a Uniform Civil Code isn't about upholding women's rights, it's about a Hindu nationalist agenda to "discipline" Muslims.
3. In the Telegraph, Swapan Dasgupta on the terror attack in Dhaka and the dangers of debating "true Islam".


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Samar Halarnkar on the dying gulmohars of Bangalore:

Some citizens – largely, those committed to saving what's left, such as this vibrant group, Save the Bangalore Trees, on Facebook – are indeed concerned that the tide of economic growth and unprecedented opportunity is sweeping away thousands of trees, the very things that can fulfil their aspirations for a better life and mitigate the potentially catastrophic side effects of rising prosperity and a warming planet.

For every Bangalorean, there is now 0.1 tree, or a tenth of a tree. There should be 10 times that number if the city has to absorb the growing volumes of carbon dioxide from the 1,600 vehicles registered every day. "Since wide roads are being felled of trees across the city for road widening, this implies that Bangalore’s street tree population is being selectively denuded of its largest trees," wrote Harini Nagendra, a professor at the Azim Premji University, in this 2010 study. In the years since Nagendra's study, more than 50,000 trees have been lost, with only a few of the old gulmohars standing.